barutopiaBar Utopia

Any vigilant expat living in Dongguan for more than two years has seen this dubious fantasy go supernova before. In the vicinity of a popular local boozing staple, a quieter, refined bar opens, sans apparent business plan or focus. The young, Wechat/Weibo/QQ addicted barkeeps shuffle about the place as confused as the décor versus music selection. The self-same owners momentarily glare wide-eyed at any patron entering their establishment with inward applause at being able to eke out possible mobile phone charge time for their 3G accounts. Having watched the six of them going through a stock list because a patron asked for something they didn’t know existed on their menu speaks enough.

Street side, the outlook of Utopia Bar bodes well. There’s a white album John Lennon and Beatles snapshot collage adoring the quaint exterior with a few tables on the sidewalk. Likewise, tidbits of pop culture Americana also line the walls with bygone album covers and B-movie posters, reminiscent of a Hard Rock Café. This is all merely suggestion. The color scheme is cold, and the music selection consists of a bootleg Akon collaboration DVD on repeat. The second floor crosses the border into a world of bizarre that could only be appreciated by people contemplating the meaning of life. Welcome to a mirror image of the lower deck, including the Americana, minus two TVs but with quiet Canto-pop and squint-eye lighting. It’s a weird attempt at a cocktail lounge.

With nothing on draft, the cheap beer page relies heavily on bottles easily acquired in import shops or Metro, but for thrice the cost. It’s noticeably Bavarian with a few increasingly popular Belgian ales. Otherwise, the menu doesn’t feature any spectacular departure from known expectations. There’s Black and Red label, a few ho-hum 12 year whiskeys and a stale cocktail list that bartenders required a computer program to mix. Professionalism aside, expect no idle banter from the bartenders as their smart phones absorb all attention. The story ends: The Macallan doesn’t taste like The Macallan. The quiet becomes quieter as passersby return to their normal haunts unfazed. The beer stored in non-air conditioned cupboards continues to grow staler. And, the offspring of wealthy locals return from abroad to continue chatting online.

Category Bar Reviews